Word came recently about my college reunion this fall. I’m not going, but it put me in mind of two reunions that my brave husband accompanied me to and for which he has long ago forgiven me.
The first time we’d been married only a year. We were in my hometown visiting relatives when a friend called to announce an impromptu gathering of my college class to celebrate 25 years since we graduated. Michael was 29. I was 46.
He felt like a tagalong, a guppy swimming with big fish. My classmates had become doctors, lawyers, professors. The host was a judge. I knew I belonged with you, he said. I just didn’t know if I belonged with your people.
I don’t remember feeling embarrassed about having a young(er) husband. Maybe I was a little worried about the reaction of my college friends, but I always relished the role of the maverick, the nonconformist. So I did a bad job of sticking with him, turning him loose in the big fish pond while I caught up with friends. I remember thinking that if I pretended it was normal to marry a man 17 years younger, everyone else would think so, too.
Well, think again. I thought I was presenting a brave face to the world, but really I was just in denial. Michael is exceptionally good at drawing people into conversation. But here he faced a vast tangle of intertwined lives almost impossible to decipher, and even harder to whack through to make a connection. He was just making some progress on that front when my ex-husband showed up and introduced himself. Yikes!
I was in another room when the two of them shook hands. Michael remembers not feeling intimidated at all. Instead, he felt cocky, he says, comparing my ex’s balding head and pudgy waistline to the photos he had seen of our married years.
Fast forward eight years to the 40th reunion of my junior high class. Now we were all past 50, some of us grandparents. By now, Michael had met many of the people who were there, had made a path through that overgrown jungle of relationships and memories.
Still, it shocked him that my peers no longer looked middle-aged. You were all moving into old. People were getting gray, thinking about retiring. And that must mean… my wife is getting old, too.
I haven’t been to any of Michael’s class reunions. He’s never wanted to go, and I don’t, either. Being a maverick takes you only so far.